Last season there were several signs that things were not going to go according to plan for Purdue. There was Texas winning in Mackey, ending a long home win streak as Purdue fell apart with three minutes left. There was the collapse at Marquette. The real alarming one was the 70-56 loss at Nebraska on December 15th. At least Texas and Marquette were good teams. Nebraska was flat out awful and had lost at home to the likes of UC-Riverside and Southern Utah. It was a listless Purdue effort and truly set off alarm bells in a year where the Boilers stumbled to a 16-15 finish.
A little over a year later we have another “alarm bells” game. There are very few gimmies this year in Big Ten play. Everyone seems to be good, but at 4-7 overall and with it being in Mackey Arena, this should be a game where Purdue gets things back on track. The Boilers have two more road trips to Michigan State and Indiana in the next two games after this, so getting a win over the last place team while playing at home is absolutely critical.
From: Lincoln, NE
Date: Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Tip Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2019-20 Record: 7-24, 2-18 Big Ten
2020-21 Record: 4-7, 0-4 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Corn Nation
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 16-6
Last Nebraska Win: 70-56 at Nerbaska on 12/15/2019
Last Purdue Win: 75-72 at Nebrasla on 2/23/2019
NCAA Tournament History: 7 appearances, last in 2014. Only Major Conference team to never win an NCAA Tournament game.
Coach: Fred Hoiberg (11-31 in 2nd year at Nebraska, 126-87 overall)
Before Purdue played Nebraska last year the Cornhuskers were really, really bad. After that game, they were worse. They went just 2-19 the rest of the way, finishing the year on a 17 game losing streak. They participated in one of just two Big Ten Tournament games that were actually played and needed backup quarterback Noah Vedral to suit up against Indiana just to have enough players for the game.
So far this year things haven’t been much better, but at least they don’t have losses to UC-Riverside, Southern Utah, and North Dakota. One of their four wins is over something called “Doane”, while they comfortably beat McNeese State, North Dakota State, and South Dakota. In Big Ten play they have three double-digit losses and a seven point loss to Michigan State. They’ve also lost to Nevada, Georgia Tech, and Creighton.
Nebraska is near the bottom of the Big Ten in most statistical categories. They are 11th in both offense and defense. They are the worst shooting team in the league and hey rate they rate 12th in three-points shooting. They regularly get outrebounded (12th in rebounding margin) and they are dead last in assist/ turnover ratio.
There are a few positives though. Teddy Allen is having a great year at 18.2 points per game. He played the 2017-18 season at West Virginia going the JuCo route and leading all of JuCo in scoring at 31.4 points per game last year at Western Nebraska Community College. Dalano Banton has played well, averaging 12.8 points and 4.9 assists per game. He is 6th in the league in assists and Allen is 6thin scoring.
The dropoff begins after third guard Trey McGowens (11.5 ppg) though. Lat Mayen and Yvan Ouedraogo give them a bit of a post presences, but they only combine for just over 11 points per game.
There are a couple of Indiana kids on the roster here. Kobe Webster put up big numbers at Western Illinois the last three seasons, but he is at 8.2 points per game. He played in high school at Park Tudor. Trevor Lakes from nearby Lebanon has been a pleasant surprise for them. He transferred in from the University of Indianapolis as a graduate transfer and is hitting 46% from three.
I also have to mention guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson because I needed to type that name. If you’re looking for who hurt us last year Thorbjarnarson had 13 points, but much of the rest of the team is now long gone. This is a team mostly starting over with a bunch of transfers and the results have been mixed at best.
Quite honestly, it would be disastrous if Purdue lost this game at home. Yes, Nebraska is probably better than last year, especially the final incarnation that it was at the end of the season, but there is still a pretty significant gap right now between them and almost everyone else in the conference. The other 13 teams all have legitimate NCAA Tournament hopes right now. Nebraska does not, and it would be a win for them to avoid playing on Wednesday in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Big Ten is insanely strong this season. I believe we need to go 10-10 in league play to feel safe on Selection Sunday. We already have two very good wins over Maryland and Ohio State. Getting Nebraska twice seems like a gift to get two more. We also get Penn State, Indiana, and Michigan State (?!?!) twice and each is struggling a bit right now. We won’t win all eight of those, but getting six would go a very long way to the eight more wins we need.
You can’t afford to lose to the last place team at home though. We saw flashes of how good Purdue can be in the last two games. We also saw the same defensive breakdowns and lethargic stretches of offense. Overall, I think this team is getting a little better every game and you can see the flashes of how good it will be in a year or so. This needs to be a game where it gains some confidence, gets a much needed win, and uses it to springboard into the next two road games. A loss would be devastating.